Critical Article Review
Instructions for the Preparation of the Critical Article Review
I. The Critical Article Review: The purpose of a critical article review is twofold. The reviewer wishes, first, to inform the reader as to the nature and scope of the article under consideration. More important, the reviewer seeks to present an evaluation of the article. In so far as is possible, the review should be objective; it should be an evaluation based upon evidence and examples presented in the review and not upon such subjective criteria as personal likes and dislikes.
II. Reading the Article:
A. Begin with questions in your mind: Who wrote the article? Is he/she qualified to write on the subject chosen? What is the article about? Why did the author write the article? Does the article have a thesis? Does the title reveal the author's attitude toward his/her subject? If you ask yourself these and other pertinent questions before you begin to read, you will be in a good position to evaluate the article.
B. Read the introduction. Valuable clues to the author's purpose and/or thesis may be found there.
C. Read the body of the work carefully, noting important passages.
III. Evaluation. While reading the article, attempt to identify the author's thesis - a thesis is an argument supported by evidence put forward by the author. Once you have found the thesis, you must decide for yourself if it is valid. You must, in other words, discover what the author is trying to say and, then, evaluate what is said. In so doing, you may find the following questions helpful:
- What is the subject and scope of the article?
- How thorough is the author's treatment of his subject?
- What kind of sources (primary or secondary) does the author use?
- Does the article treat the subject in detail or in general terms?
- In what sort of style (i.e. popular, elegant, pedantic) is the article written?
- Is the article well organized and constructed?
- When was the article written?
- Is it the most recent in the field?
IV. Preparing to Write the Review: Once you have read the article and found its thesis or purpose, and once you have evaluated it, you are ready to write your review. Having decided on the point your review will make (i.e. this is a sound, well-documented, and carefully written article or this article is so poorly researched and so badly written that the publisher should not have wasted good paper on it or this is a fascinating article but it lacks the evidence to support the thesis-and so on). Write an introductory paragraph containing the title and author of the article, a sentence about the author, a brief description of the article's contents, and an indication of what your review will say. The following two or three paragraphs (i.e. the body of the review) will probably contain a statement of the author's argument, an evaluation of its validity, and the answers to such of the above questions as are pertinent to the article. When you have finished the review - an absolute maximum of five typed (or the equivalent in long-hand pages) - write a concluding paragraph in which a summary of your review's most important points is made.
V. Citation. At the top of the first page of your review, give a full citation for the article read.
LaSalle, Peter. “Conundrum: A Story about Reading.” New England Review 38, no. 1 (2017): 95–109.
VI. A Few Points and Guidelines:
An article review discusses the main themes of an article, states the author's thesis (main point), describes the author's sources (evidence), assesses the author's use of the sources in arguing the thesis, and compares the author's work with other articles on the same subject. If an article review offers an opinion on the merits of the article, it does so on the basis of the author's stated objectives, not on the basis of the reviewer's biases.
The word "critical" in "critical analysis" does not mean that you are obligated to produce an unfavorable review, nor that you should be disparaging in your remarks. It means that you should use critical reading skills to ask yourself what the author's objective is, what the author's thesis is, and how the author has used his or her sources to construct an argument using evidence that is persuasive. In the final analysis, has the author persuaded you--the reader--to agree with his or her interpretation of history?
Like every good piece of writing, your article review should be constructed with an introduction, the main body of the text (several paragraphs) in which you develop your analysis, and a conclusion.
When writing a Critical Review paper you should have this general framework:
Introduction (providing a framework and focus for the rest of your paper). Introductions should clearly identify the article and begin the process of explaining the main point in the article. You should also provide a clear transition to your more in-depth analysis/criticisms of the article at the end of this paragraph. It should establish your thesis and objectives in the paper; thus, it should not be a thoughtless formality but rather provide the context for the more detailed explanation and analysis in the main body of your paper. Essentially, it should tell me what the article is doing and what your paper is going to say about the article.
Main Body. The main body of the paper consists of your detailed explanation of the article and overall critical analysis of the work. You should explain, develop, and expand upon the ideas and themes you set up in the introduction.
Summary/conclusion. Summarize and reiteration – essentially, tell me what you said about the article and its ideas and give your final assessment of the article.
Tip: You might find it useful to begin in the main body of the paper, write to the end, compose the summary and then write the introduction last - it may make for a stronger opening in many cases if you do it that way.
Papers should be formatted properly and reflect what you have learned about formatting in Comp. 1.
1 inch margins
11 or 12 point font
3 to 4 pages in length, or 750 to 1000 words when printed double-spaced and in 12-point font.
Heading with name, date, assignment, etc.
Submitted in document compatible with eLearn system (.docx, .pdf, etc.)
If you want to include citations from the article you are reviewing, use quotation marks for the citations and insert page number on which the citation appears in parentheses immediately afterwards. If you choose to cite works other than the article you are reviewing, you should use the appropriate conventions of historical scholarship for footnotes and include a bibliography. A useful guide in this respect is Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 3rd ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001).
Common mistakes to avoid:
Do not write an exclusively narrative, descriptive paper. Most of your paper should consist of your explanation, analysis, and criticism (both positive and negative) of the ideas in the article.
Avoid merely paraphrasing what the article says. Strive to conceptualize, analyze, and explain rather than just restate what the article says.
FOCUS ON THE ARTICLE ITSELF. Don’t use the article as a source and a way to talk about the topic that the article covers. Your job is to explain what the article says and the point it is making about the past. Likewise, your analysis should be of the article and its conclusions. Tell me what you think of the author’s interpretation of the events he/she describes and why you came to that conclusion.
USE YOUR OWN WORDS AND IDEAS. Avoid lengthy quotations from the article. Don’t quote or paraphrase the textbook. Compose in your own words what you find to be relevant in terms of the thesis stated in your introduction. If you do quote the text be sure to explain exactly what the text is saying and why it is important to the main point of your paper. Don’t let a quote make a point for you.
Avoid the passive voice. Nothing makes a paper more tedious to read than an over use of the passive voice. Try using active verbs and different sentence structures to enhance your writing. (Ex: The boy was excited. He went to the park. Instead: In his excitement the boy ran to the park.) Now this does not mean that you should never use the passive voice as it is sometimes necessary to do so. However, you should strive to make your writing as engaging as you can.